Agents of Incompetence, Part 423: Will Pellet Gun-Gate Ever Die?

Stop me if you've heard this one before. Customs officers raid a container of Airsoft pellet guns and claim to have captured a shipment of machine guns. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) steps in and claims that with a little drilling here and a little drilling there ... and then replacing 90% of the parts of the toy, you might just be able to claim this is a gun.

If this absurd story sounds familiar, it is because we've covered it in excruciating detail. We've talked to Airsoft importers and dealers in several countries, professional soldiers and gunsmiths, and the government agencies. To date, Customs has punted all questions to the ATF, and the ATF is dodging FOIA requests that would expose whether or not they have a legitimate claim.

The consensus opinion of those interviewed in these preceding stories is that the ATF claim is not credible, nor is their response since making this claim.

If these toys are indeed easily convertable to weapons, then the ATF has a duty to stop all imports of them, confiscate guns at the distributor and retail level, and then order a consumer recall of all weapons. Those that failed to turn in these toys would be subject to long prison sentences for felony convictions for violation of several federal laws.  Instead, these exact same toys -- the WE Tech M4 and WE Tech M4 CQBR Airsoft guns -- are available to anyone with a credit card and an internet connection, or to anyone within driving distance of an Airsoft store that carries these high-end, plastic BB-firing replicas.

Customs has not stopped the importation of these toys. The ATF has issued no recalls, nor ordered these toys to be turned in. The government agencies involved in this ridiculous snafu don't want to make a federal case out of this, which they should or would if these toys are a potential terrorist threat.

There is every indication that they simply want the story to go away without admitting they were wrong.

Unfortunately for them, Fox News reporter Diane Macedo didn't want to let the controversy die. She drudged up the nearly two-month-old story one more time for an "exclusive." Most of the ground Macedo covers is old news to readers of Pajamas Media, but she did make several interesting claims -- including that one "expert" has reversed his earlier position that the ATF claim wasn't credible:

When the ATF seized a shipment of 30 of these guns in October from a port in Tacoma, Wash., it said they could be "readily convertible" to machine guns. But gun experts called that claim absurd and said the ATF was overstepping its bounds.

Now one of those critics is reversing his position, saying at least one Airsoft manufacturer has taken the quest to be authentic a little too far.

"The Airsoft can be converted to an AR-15," firearms manufacturer Leo Gonnuscio told after testing the make and model of Airsoft guns seized by the ATF.

Having concluded that several other Airsoft guns could not be converted to fire real ammunition, Gonnuscio said he was surprised to find that he was able to transform this particular gun to the real thing -- and with "minimal work," because its bottom half, or "receiver," is so similar to an AR-15's.

To make the Airsoft receiver function just like an AR-15, Gonnuscio said, "All you have to do is drill one hole."

We attempted to check Macedo's claim that Gonnuscio has reversed his position, but we were unable to find any mention of his name in internet searches in connection with earlier versions of this story where he claimed something else.

For that matter, we've found scant evidence that Gonnuscio is a firearms manufacturer, in the sense that he owns a facility manufacturing firearms.

If Google Maps is correct, Kind Mountain Gun Works, Gonnuscio's company, operates out of a residential address in Cornelius, Oregon, that has seen better days, and searches on his name suggest Gonnuscio is a gunsmith who subcontracts simple repairs from Portland area gun stores. There is no indication he has any particular expertise or knowledge of the AR-15 or M-4 platform.